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Book Review: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore.

Title: Valentine

Author: Elizabeth Wetmore

Length: 320 pages

Publisher: 4th Estate books

Synopsis: Mary Rose Whitehead isn’t looking for trouble – but when it shows up at her front door, she finds she can’t turn away. Corinne Shepherd, newly widowed, wants nothing more than to mind her own business, and for everyone else to mind theirs. But when the town she has spent years rebelling against closes ranks she realises she is going to have to take a side. Debra Ann is motherless and lonely and in need of a friend. But in a place like Odessa, Texas, choosing who to trust is a dangerous game. Gloria Ramírez, fourteen years old and out of her depth, survives the brutality of one man only to face the indifferences and prejudices of many. When justice is as slippery as oil, and kindness becomes a hazardous act, sometimes courage is all we have to keep us alive.

This is an incredibly powerful novel, with all the characters connecting around Glory, who has been attacked and turns up at the nearest house, after fighting back fleeing for her life.

Valentine is told through the perspectives of many characters, and it works perfectly. Wetmore weaves the story through all these perspectives and it elevates this story to another level. There was maybe one perspective that didn’t need to be there, it didn’t diminish the story in anyway, but i found myself wanting to skip it.

Each perspectives also reveals how a character is dealing with their own issues, as well as the effect the crime is having on the town. Mary Rose, who is answers the door to Glory and Corrine who just wants to be left alone to grieve her husband, are two of the standouts for me.

You can tell this novel is building to something, and I thought it would be the trial for Glory’s case, which it dealt with, but it went beyond what I was expecting and I found myself not being able to turn the pages fast enough. I’m not going to give anything away, or all the perspectives but it all came together so well.

Wetmore has created some fantastic characters that are real and heartfelt. You’ll root for them. Wetmore also captures the injustice and racism in a small town perfectly. This book at times will make your blood boil. This is a debut novel and it’s fantastic how much heart Elizabeth has managed to include.

I also can’t think of another novel that finishes so well, yet left me with some many questions. Some of the story was wrapped, but I wanted to know more about the characters I’d come to care for. It was a satisfying ending in many ways, but I can’t deny it left me wanting more.

I would definitely recommend this book, it’s raw and impactful. I think it’s a book you won’t forget for a while after reading it. It has something to say, in the many layers of this book.

Thank you to 4th Estate Books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

#fantasy, #fiction, #literature, author, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

WWW Wednesday- 20th May

I haven’t done one of these posts in such a long time. So I figured I’d have a go. It’s just a little update where I’m at with my reading.

What is WWW Wednesday? WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme where all you have to do is answer three simple questions. Look at me using the word meme! I feel so young!

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you finished reading recently?
  • What are you planning to read next?

So let’s get started

What are you currently reading?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. Well I have to be honest and say I’m not reading this. I’m still waiting for it to arrive. I’m literally sitting looking out of the window waiting for the postman to arrive. But I will be picking it up as soon as it arrives. I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time.

What have you finished reading recently?

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. I finished this late last night as I couldn’t put it down. While it took me a little while to get into it, once I did it was brilliant. It really did break my heart. This one is out August 6th.

What are you reading next?

I always find this question so hard because I never know what to read next, but I think I’m going to try and get through my arcs ‘The Great Godden’ by… I’ve heard nothing but good things and I want to experience it for myself. It’s out July 7th.

So that’s it, that’s my reading week I guess. I wonder how long it will take me to read ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’. I plan on doing nothing else.

Let me know what you’re reading.

Until the next review

JTH

#fiction, #literature, author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, historical fiction, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: People Like Us by Louise Fein

Title: People Like Us

Author: Louise Fein

Length: 496 pages

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Synopsis: Leipzig, 1930s Germany: Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother is in the Luftwaffe. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it. But Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect-in-every-way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew. As Hetty falls more deeply in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself…

I have to say I really enjoyed this novel.

There were many elements to this book, but for it to really work, it all depends on the love story. I have to be honest and say Hetty and Walter fell in love pretty quickly, I can say I believed it. Especially as the novel went on. It was a sweet romance, that I wanted to have a happy ending.

Hetty is a great character to follow. I really believed she was following her heart and I loved the slow, gradual build up of strength to fight for what she felt was right. It was a beautiful transition to read. I also loved her friend, Erna. I Loved that she was a resistance fighter. I adored the friendship they had. I loved the connection. between these two characters.

I though it was really interesting to place this novel at the time of the rise of the Nazi and not the war. It gave it a different perspective and I loved it. Also the the fact that her dad was SS officer was also a great plot point for these characters to be in. There was a great moment between Hetty and Erna where they told each other about being in the resistance and they weren’t sure if they could trust each other.

The ending. I’m not going to spoil anything but they really made me cry. You just find out so much, and it’s done in the most heartfelt way. It’s a testament to the writing and made me really realise how much I believed in the characters on this book. I was really pleased with the ending. I actually really think it was the perfect ending.

Louise has written a very atmospheric book, that captures the fear and hatred but it also manages to hold onto hope and love. It’s filled with lots of historical details, which I absolutely loved.

I can’t recommend enough. For fans of historical fiction and romance. It’s beautiful with a great ending.

Thanks too Head of Zeus for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now on ebook and comes out in August if you’d like a physical copy.

Until the next review

JTH

#literature, author, blogtour, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, historical fiction, review, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review + Blog Tour: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

Title: The Forgotten Sister

Author: Nicola Cornick

Length: 400 pages

Publisher: HQ

Synopsis: 1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn. Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape- one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries. Present day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

I am super excited to be on the Blog Tour for this book with HQ and all these other wonderful bloggers, so make sure you check them out.

Told in two different periods of History, we follow Issey (present day) and Amy (1545) as one tries to clear her name, and the other fights to get her life back.

I love historical fiction and the premise for this book sounded so good, and very intriguing. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

I definitely connected, and was much more interested in the present day storyline than the 1945 storyline at the beginning. The present day was really gripping and it had so many twists and turns that I just never knew what was going to happen. I loved it. Throughout the novel I was interested to see how they would connect. I was a little unsure at first about the ‘psychic’ element to the book, but it was done really well and I ended up enjoying it. It added another level to this book.

Both Issey and Amy were both fantastic to follow. They were both so different, yet fighting for the same thing, the life they both actually want. They were both so strong, and I love the character development of Issey. I love to read about a character that really gets to know themselves and it was done really well in this book.

I loved also that Amy was a real life person (as are most of the characters in the historical fiction part of the book) but no one knows what happened to Amy and I love that Nicola decided to give her a voice, it makes my history loving heart very happy.

I don’t want to give too much away and spoil it for you, you’ll find out what happens when you read it but I really enjoyed the ending. I definitely didn’t see it coming, but it made total sense. Then it wrapped it up really nicely and sweetly. I also love that the same names were you used in both periods in the book. I thought that was really clever.

I would definitely recommend this book. It’s perfect for fans of historical fiction, who love some mystery and romance.

Thanks for HQ for the copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

#literature, author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, historical fiction, review, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes

Title: The Prisoner’s Wife

Author: Maggie Brookes

Length: 396 pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Synopsis: 1944, Czechoslovakia. In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier creep through abandoned villages. They were never mean to meet, let alone fall in love. But when Bill was brought to work on Izobela’s family farm as a prisoner of war, their chemistry was undeniable. Before they could be torn apart forever, they marry in secret and go on the run. Their only hope for safety is to reach Izobela’s father and brother, fighting deep in the countryside as partisans. But when their luck runs out, they are delivered straight into the hands of the Nazis. But they still refuse to separate, and have prepared for this moment. Izobela’s hair has been shorn and she wears men’s clothing, posing as an escaped and mute British soldier. The secret lovers are transported to a Nazi POW camp deep in German territory, and if Izabela is discovered, a fate far worse than death awaits both her and Bill. The gravity of the their situation soon becomes chillingly apparent, and it will require the help of their fellow POW to maintain their deception, and all their love, devotion and strength to withstand the trails to come. Because should they fail, Izobela and Bill will have put far more than just themselves in danger…

In The Prisoner’s Wife we follow the story of Izzy, a Czech farm girl and Bill, a prisoner of war. As they fall in love and begin an epic journey and a fight for their survival.

This book turned up at my door as a surprise and I’m so glad it did. It was a thrilling, heart wrenching yet beautiful read. I couldn’t put it down, but I didn’t want it to end.

The love story between Bill and Izzy is one for the ages. It was so tender, passionate and generous. They sacrificed so much for each other. It was beautifully written as well, it was understated and it made more believeable. They never give up fighting for each other. You are willing them to survive, so they can have wonderful life together.

I absolutely loved how the fellow British POWs helped protect Izzy as she hid in Bills camp to stay close to him (see I told you it was a great love story). It gave the novel a real uplifting feel. I also loved how Bill, Izzy, Max, and Ralph became such a team. It was a joy to read. I wanted them all to survive and stay together. They way the all looked out for Izzy and each other was absolutely fantastic. It was the highlight of the novel for me. It really captures the tenacity of the human spirit. Maggie managed to create some tender moments for them amongst the brutality.

This historical fiction novel has been researched meticulously and it adds so much to the story. Maggie has made the story so detailed and accurate, it was outstanding. There are many books out there set in this period of history, but I haven’t read any from the British POW point of view and I loved it. It was so refreshing to see a different side to this story.

The fact that is book is based on a true story makes it all the more heartbreaking. Maggie perfectly captures the horror these POWs had to go through yet when you finish the book, you are somehow filled with hope. It’s a testament to the great writing.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s everything you want it to be. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction novels this year, and it’s definitely one of the best. You won’t to miss this one.

This book is being published on April 16th, in time for the 75th anniversary of VE Day (May 8th) and the end of WWII.

Thank you so much to Penguin Random House for sending me this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out April 16th (now).

Until the next review

JTH

author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, historical fiction, review, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: ‘The Yellow Bird Sings’ by Jennifer Rosner

Title: The Yellow Bird Sings

Author: Jennifer Rosner

Length: 304 pages

Publisher: Picador

Synopsis: Poland, 1941. After the Jews in their town are rounded up, Róża and her five-year-old daughter, Shira, spend day and night hidden in a farmer’s barn. Róża does all she can to take care of Shira and shield her from the horrors of the outside world. They play silent games and invent their own sign language. But then the day comes when their heaven is no longer safe, and Róża must face an impossible choice: whether to keep her daughter close by her side, or give her a chance to survive by letting her go…

I enjoyed this book so much. From start to finish. It never let up. It was Thrilling, intense and completely heartfelt. I loved it. If my review seems a little vague about the plot, it’s because I’m trying to avoid spoilers for you.

The story starts with Róża and Shira hiding in a barn as they try and avoid being captured by the Nazi. With Róża having to decide to keep her daughter with her, or send her away to safety. Then following their journeys after the decision was made.

I read this book in a day. A DAY! This never happens, you all know what a slow reader I am. But I couldn’t put this book down. I just kept reading and reading. I had to know what happened to these two characters I’d come to care for. And let me tell you it didn’t disappoint. At all.

‘The Yellow Bird Sings’ was so intense from the start, with it never letting up really. Jennifer perfectly captures the fear, the brutality, the harrowing conditions and the human spirit. When Róża and Shira are hiding in the barn, Jennifer makes you feel their fear. I haven’t read a book like that in a while. The detail, like a codes they use was so clever and something I’d never thought of. Shows new sides to a very known story. Even after the barn, it’s still so intense. I just had to know how the story was going to resolve it’s self. I never knew what was coming next.

This book is packed full of fantastic characters. Róża and Shira are brilliant. There connection is so pure and loving. They are both so complex. You can really feel the damage this situation is doing to them. They also meet some fantastic characters. Miri, Chana and the Nuns. I love the relationships that are formed. The intensity of the relationships, because of the situation every character finds themselves in, is a real shining point for me in the novel.

Now, let’s talk about that ending shall we? It was perfect. Literally perfect. For a while I wanted a bigger, Hollywood story ending but upon reflection I think this was so perfect. After a page turning, intense novel there is a real simplicity to the ending. I’m so glad it didn’t disappoint. The whole novel conjures up wonderful imagery, but I can see the ending so clearly in my head. It was brilliant! Yes, I cried. I cried a lot. A good book does that to me.

I can’t help but feel this book would a perfect series for television. It’s got such a grand cinematic feel to it, with real heart.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you love historical fiction (or just a good book in general) you really won’t want to miss this one.

Thanks to Bookbreak UK and picador for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

#fiction, #literature, author, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, thriller, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: ‘Magpie Lane’ by Lucy Atkins

Title: Magpie Lane

Author: Lucy Atkins

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: Quercus

Synopsis: When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Masters Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl; Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother. But is Dee telling the whole story. Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?

In Magpie Lane, we follow Dee as she is sitting in the police station, answer questions about a missing little girl that she had recently became a nanny for. Dee is fighting for her innocence.

Magpie Lane has got such an interesting premise and as soon as you start the book you can’t help but wonder does Dee know anything? You spend the whole book looking for clues.

It’s full of intrigue and mystery, which I loved, but it didn’t over power the whole novel. It ebbed and flowed perfectly. It had moments of real emotion and sadness . Seriously, you spend the whole trying to figure out if Dee was involved!! As the story goes on you find some things out about Dee, and it just adds to the mystery. I will say I believed she didn’t have anything to do with the disappearance, but I won’t spoil it for you. Let you see for yourself what happens when you read it.

This book didn’t rely on the mystery to keep it you interested. It had some fantastic characters too. Dee was brilliant, it’s alway so fun to read a book when we don’t know if the main protagonist is trustworthy, especially when it’s this well done. Felicity, the little girl, had so many layers to her with her mutism, her sadness. You desperately wanted to know what happened to her because you liked her. I just loved the characterisation. There’s more characters, which are also fantastic, but I’m trying not to give any spoilers away.

It was so atmospheric. It’s set in a centuries old house in Oxford and it’s the perfect setting. The house had so much history and so does the town of Oxford and Lucy really cleverly weaves them into the story. It added a whole another element to the book. It also had a bit of supernatural element to it, with Felicity seeing ghosts. It fit perfectly with the old house, the graveyards in Oxford. I’m not ashamed to admit I got a little creeped out at times.

Here’s the most pleasing thing about Magpie Lane, the ending didn’t disappoint. I couldn’t turn those pages fast enough. When I thought it ended I was a little bit like ‘oh is that it?’ But then I read that Epilogue. That’s it, I’m not saying anymore. I won’t ruin it for you.

I highly recommend this book. If you like mystery, supernatural books that have also got some heart, then this is definitely the book for you. You won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you to Quercus books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out April 2nd (today).

Until the next review

JTH

#fiction, #literature, author, blog, blogtour, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, review, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Lenght: 384 pages

Publisher: 4th Estate Books

With so much hype surrounding this book, I was so lucky to get myself an early copy and I couldn’t wait to read this polarising book.

Synopsis: Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Stane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. But now, in 2017, in the midst of allegations against powerful men, she is being asked to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape.

I’m going to start by saying it’s taken me a long time to write this review. A really long time. I’ve also written this sometime after I read it. I had to sit with my thoughts for a while and let myself realise just what an impact this book had on me. My Dark Vanessa is the kind of book that will have a massive impact on anyone that reads it. It just will. It’s that powerful and visceral.

In this book we follow Vanessa, who at the age of 15 begins a love affair with her English teacher, but as time goes on and more allegations come out about him, she begins to question whether it was love at all.

Here’s what so interesting about this book, it takes a different approach to the situation. We of course as a reader know it’s totally wrong, it’s not love, it’s abuse. But to follow Vanessa as she comes to realise this herself is both heartbreaking, and powerful moment. And it’s handled by Kate Elizabeth Russel brilliantly, it’s somehow delicate yet firm. You’ll immediately feel for Vanessa. As the ‘relationship’ carries on can feel her slipping away. You can feel the effect this trauma is having on her and she doesn’t even realise it. It’s undeniably sad.

Never have I read a book that captures so perfectly what it’s trying to say. Whilst reading it, I just knew the clear message Kate was trying to get across. It’s shines another light on these horrible situations. This book did have some very uncomfortable scenes in, there’s a scene where Vanessa and her English teacher are on the phone, and he says something and you instantly know, as the reader what this book is really trying to say. Powerful.

This is Kate Elizabeth Russell’s debut novel and all I can say is wow. To take a situation that is so complex, especially in these times, and to make this book as nuanced and uncomfortable must have been incredibly hard, but Kate’s created a master of a novel. It’s everything you need this book to be, its challenging, thought provoking and exceptional.

There’s been a lot of hype around this book, and it’s totally worth it. I couldn’t put it down. I promise you, you’ll never forget this book.

I was lucky enough to receive this book at the 4th Estate Live event back in November (click here to find out about the other books I received). This one is out now. Don’t miss it.

Until the next review

JTH

author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, review, Uncategorised, ya

ARC Book Review: ‘The Discomfort of the Evening’ by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Title: The Discomfort of the Evening

Author: Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Length: 282 pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber Books

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this beautiful book and I can gladly say it disappoint.

Synopsis: Jas lives with her devout farming family in the rural Netherlands. One winter’s day, her older brother joins an ice skating trip; resentful at being left alone, she makes a perverse plea to God; he never returns. As grief overwhelms the farm, Jas retreats into increasingly disturbing fantasies, watching her family disintegrate into a darkness that threatens to derail them all.

We follow Jas, who after not being allowed Ice skating and her brother is, wishes he was dead. Then, when he does die, we see the family deal with the grief.

The Discomfort of the Evening deals with grief so beautifully and honestly. It’s shows it in its every form. It really makes you appreciate all the choices these characters make from their sadness. It’s devastating. The grief is so poignant, so left unsaid. Marieke just capture it beautiful and shines a light on it.

This book was so immersive. I thought of nothing else while reading it. Now don’t get me wrong, there was some dark subject matter in here. It was even brutal at times, but it fit in with the story. Everything was a reaction to the grief.

Can we talk about the end of the book? It broke my heart. I didn’t see it coming, yet it made perfect sense. It’s an ending I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I can say I had a little cry.

I read this at the beginning of February and I’ve saved the review for its publication date and I can’t stop thinking about this book. It gets under your skin. It’s hard to explain. It’s so cohesive and compact. It’s just absolutely fantastic.

This book is dark, honest and so sure of itself. It’ll sweep you up in the emotions and won’t let you go until it ends. It probably won’t even let you go then. Marieke’s characterisation is out of this world. She captures the darkness that Jas slips into perfectly. It’s mesmerising. This is Marieke debut novel, and I think it’s safe to say there’s a new talent on the scene.

It’s also just been longlisted for the International Booker Prize for 2020. I can’t say I’m surprised, this book is definitely worthy of it. I can’t recommend it enough.

Thank you to Josh at Faber & Faber for gifting we with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, gay, historical fiction, interview, lgbt, queer, review, Uncategorised, ya

Interview with Marina Kemp author of ‘Nightingale’- Part 2

This is my first Author little Q+A and I am very excited and weirdly a tad nervous. First of all, I have to say a massive thank you to Marina Kemp for agreeing to take part in this. It’s been a fantastic experience for me and she’s been so kind. I really appreciate it.

I was lucky enough to get given a copy of ‘Nightingale’ when I attended the 4th Estate Live event in November (you can read all about that here). I got to listen to Marina talk about her debut novel, and it just made me want to read it even more.

‘Nightingale’ was my first 5⭐️ read of 2020, well I guess technically the new decade (you can check out that review here). I had a lot of questions to ask Marina, but I narrowed it down to 10 and the answers she’s given are brilliant. We talk about the novel, her next book and some advice for writers.

I hope you enjoy it.

1) Where did the inspiration come from for this book?

I wrote a short story when I was seventeen or eighteen, a relatively simple story about a young woman living with and nursing a cruel old man. I lost the story – it got stuck on a laptop that broke down and I never had fixed, and it may well have been very bad, anyway – but something about that premise, the central relationship between the young nurse and old man, never left me. When I was twenty-nine I tried to write the story again, but with over a decade of life in between it came out as something a) much longer and b) very different, with very different concerns and emphasises.

2) Why did you choose to set it in France? In this small town?

I wrote that original short story in France, in a small village much like Saint-Sulpice where my mother lives a large part of the year. When I came to rewrite the story, it never occurred to me to set it anywhere else. The remoteness of the setting but also its smallness turned out to be instrumental to many elements of the story: the isolation and the silence as well as the claustrophobia, gossip and watchfulness.

3) Did the characters story change as you wrote?

Absolutely. When I started writing, I didn’t know why Marguerite was running from – only that she was running. Similarly, Henri was in hiding from something in himself but at first I wasn’t sure exactly what that was. Their personal histories emerged with gathering clarity as the story progressed.

4) Henri’s character is so complex, can you tell me how you managed to get into that headspace as you wrote Henri’s character?

I love hearing you say that, because in many ways Henri was the character I felt closest to when I was writing the novel. His life is very different from my own, but I think his struggles are universal. He strives to live with nobility, and is crushed by shame in his own perceived failure to do so.

5) The relationship between Marguerite and Jereome was so sincere, can you talk about that? Was it always going to be Nurse and Patient?

Yes, it always was. There can be such gentleness, intimacy and tenderness in a relationship of care – but there can also be cruelty and discomfort in both directions because of the inherent imbalance of power. The balance is disorientating and painful for a once-powerful man like Jerome. I wanted their relationship to unfold in a way that was true to their characters; it became clear to me that very early on that it couldn’t be straightforwardly redemptive.

6) Death is obviously a big theme throughout the novel, why is that? Was it a deliberate choice or as the characters developed did it happen?

Because of Jerome’s age and illness death, casts a shadow over the novel from the outset. But that’s true of all life – it always exists hand in hand with death, something that Marguerite learns at an early age. As the novel unfolded I was particularly interested in the choices we make around death – particularly because death itself is seldom a choice.

7) What was your writing process like? Especially for your debut?

I’m not much good at achieving balance in my writing, or trying to fit it round work and other priorities. I write best when I can take a whole week or month away from everything else and immerse myself in it completely. The most important thing for me when writing Nightingale was walking. I went on long, meandering walks and they ended up being a crucial time for everything to percolate.

8) Do you have any advice for other writers?

General writing advice is so hard because everyone’s writing practice is so different. But I think the main thing would be: find a central premise or relationship you find sufficiently compelling that it will sustain you, and go from there.

9) Any plans for book two?

Yes – I am writing a second novel at the moment. It’s been hard to find opportunities for total immersion, particularly now I’m a parent, but I’m getting there.

10) What’s your favourite book?

I studied Classics at University, and the work I always come back to when I want to feel totally literary awe is the Iliad. It’s the most powerful recollection I can think of on what it means to be human and mortal, but it’s also a brilliant piece of storytelling.

Marina Kemp was born in London, where she lives now with her husband and daughter. She studied Classics at Oxford University, and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. Nightingale is her first novel.

So that’s it. That’s the Q+A. Again, a huge thank you to Marina for taking part, I really appreciate it. I only wish I’d been brave enough to ask her to sign my copy of ‘Nightingale’ at the event.

I hope you all enjoyed this and I hope I get to do it again. Thanks for reading.

Until the next review

JTH